Yale groups oppose ‘hate speaker’ Ali
Representatives from 35 campus groups and student organisations at Yale Unliversity have signed a letter drafted by the Muslim Students Association that expresses concern over a lecture due to be delivered today by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
The Somali-born American activist known for her women’s rights advocacy and critical remarks about Islam is delivering a lecture titled “Clash of Civilizations: Islam and the West” as part of the William F Buckley, Jr Program speaker series – and the MSA isn’t happy, according to the Yale Daily News.
The daughter of a Somali politician and opposition leader, Hirsi Ali has publicly voiced criticism of practices such as female genital mutilation and has also voiced support for atheism and women’s rights.
The MSA’s letter does not ask for a withdrawal of Hirsi Ali’s invitation, according to MSA board member Abrar Omeish, but rather draws attention to her allegedly hurtful anti-Muslim statements and her lack of qualifications to speak broadly about Islam. Despite this, Buckley Program president Rich Lizardo said the group intended to proceed with its original plans for the event. He said:
An invitation and decision to go forward with this event is not an endorsement of her views or her past statements. It is an endorsement of her right to share those views and an endorsement of free speech.
Omeish said that though the MSA respects and sympathises with Hirsi Ali’s harrowing personal experience as a former Muslim, she often speaks about Islam as an authoritative academic figure while lacking the necessary scholarly credentials.
Omeish added that many of her statements on Islam have not only been factually disproven but are also inflammatory, hateful and hurtful to the Muslim community and other communities.
He referred to a 2007 interview with the London Evening Standard, in which Hirsi Ali described Islam as:
A destructive, nihilistic cult of death.
Omeish said that the group and their Islamic values uphold freedom of speech.
The difference here is that it’s hate speech, [which] under the law would be classified as libel or slander and is not protected by the First Amendment. That’s what we’re trying to condemn here.
After becoming aware of the plan to bring Hirsi Ali to campus, Omeish met with Lizardo last week to discuss Hirsi Ali’s speaking engagement and the MSA’s requests.
According to Omeish, the MSA never intended to disinvite Hirsi Ali, but instead requested the invitation of a second speaker with “academic credentials on the subject”.
The MSA also asked that Hirsi Ali’s speech be limited to her personal experience and professional expertise.
But Lizardo would not change the format or content of the lecture.
If the principle is freedom of expression and freedom of speech, then having someone there to correct her views, which is essentially what MSA would like to happen … would only hinder the principle or idea further of free speech.
Lizardo added the Buckley Program was motivated to invite Hirsi Ali when Brandeis University officials disinvited her from their school’s campus in April and rescinded her honorary degree after professors and students raised concerns over her allegedly anti-Muslim statements in the past. The Buckley Program interpreted this act as
A form of unmerited censorship at an academic institution.
Lizardo said Hirsi Ali’s speaking engagement is particularly important in light of Yale’s emphasis on freedom of speech and expression – which was touched upon in University President Peter Salovey’s freshman address this year – and the Buckley Program’s desire to bring a diversity of opinions to campus.
Yupei Guo, co-president of the service organisation Building Bridges, said in an email that she conditionally agreed to sign the letter because
Religiously and culturally intolerant speech should not be an advertised event on campus.
University Chaplain Sharon Kugler and Coordinator of Muslim Life Omer Bajwa issued a joint statement in which they confirmed the University’s commitment to free expression but raised concerns over Hirsi Ali’s prior comments about Islam.
We are deeply concerned … by Ms. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s long record of disparaging, and arguably hateful, comments about Muslims and Islam. To better represent the whole Yale community and its educational goals, we recommend the organisers consider actions to expand the event, such as allowing concerned students to present their perspectives or adding a scholarly voice to create a more nuanced conversation.
I love your new free-speech concept! Obviously this woman should have been banned from campus and had her face stomped in; why couldn’t they have just quietly murdered her in Holland along with her fellow discomfort-creators?
These people are worse than tweed underwear! They practically live to make undergraduates uncomfortable. But let’s deal with the harsh realities. Your inspired suggestion, having Official Correctors speak right after Ali to remind students of the authorized view of Muslim society, is the most exciting new development in Free Speech since the Inquisition — everyone will be talking about it!
You have written, with great restraint, about “how uncomfortable it will be” for your friends if this woman is allowed to speak. Uncomfortable nothing. The genital mutilation of young girls is downright revolting! Who ever authorized this topic in a speech to innocent Yale undergraduates?
Next thing you know, people will be saying that some orthodox Muslim societies are the most cruel and benighted on earth and that Western societies are better than they are (better!) merely because they don’t sexually mutilate young girls! Or force them into polygamous marriages, countenance honor killings, treat women as the property of their male relations, and all that.
Can’t they give it a rest? You’d think someone was genitally mutilating them.
Hat tip: M A Chohan